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on 13 May 2014
A very readable book which described both internal Russian developments under Putin and foreign relations. In particular there were interesting quotes from the participants of various conferences and one-on-one discussions between western and Russian leaders and from Russian economic policy makers (albeit now all out of favour and office).

The intention of the book seems to have been to convey the message that with more sensitivity to Russian concerns (particular on the part of the Bush administration) things might have been different and Russia might have become a 'responsible' and co-operative member of the 'international community'.

The question which was not raised however throughout the book was that of the possible and in my opinion likely connection between the internal and external developments in Russia. Each was depicted in separate chapters as if Putin, the operator in foreign affairs has no connection with the Putin who, as the book points out is presiding over the descent of Russia into a state of legal nihilism and corruption on a mind-numbing scale. Is it really the case that for instance American intransigence on missile defence in Eastern Europe played more of a role in shaping Russian foreign policy than the type of regime which developed internally Russia or vice-versa could it have been the case that a different relationship of Western governments (actually the Americans) to Russia would have led to Putin retaining his early promise of democratic development? The latter seems unlikely but the matter is never addressed in the book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 August 2013
More readable than many crime thrillers, this mixture of clear analysis with entertaining anecdotes has an authentic ring, Roxburgh being a former BBC Moscow correspondent and sometime PR advisor to Putin's press secretary.

He acknowledges Putin's initial success in restoring law and order, curtailing the power of the oligarchs who hijacked Russia's rapid adoption of capitalism in the 1990s, stabilising the economy, reducing debt, achieving growth (admittedly with the aid of high Russian oil and gas prices) and even in supporting the Americans in their fight against Afghanistan - perhaps not in itself a good thing.

Roxburgh expands on the depressing recent turn of events as an increasingly authoritarian leader establishes the "vertical of power", appoints cronies to senior positions in key industries, and turns a blind eye to, if not exactly ordering, the liquidation of anyone who dares to criticise corruption in such chilling cases as the shooting of the journalist Anna Politovskaya and the killing in prison of the young lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, "arrested by the very officials he had accused of fraud".

Thought to have accumulated a vast personal fortune, Putin seeks to retain personal majority support as president partly by impressing people with his often stage-managed macho exploits, but also by resorting to ballot-rigging and laws to restrict the freedom of speech, conscience and mass media, "the fundamental elements of a civilised society" which he promised on first coming to power. Opposition is still too fragmented to bring him down, and he can dismiss the disaffected middle classes as the tools of western influence. Roxburgh is particularly interesting on the comparisons between Putin and his one-term presidential stooge, Medvedev, who seems more liberal and flexible, but unable to stand against him.

Roxburgh is fair-minded in showing how the West has repeatedly failed to see matters from the Russians' perspective, to sense, for instance, how humiliated they felt to be excluded from NATO when former Eastern Bloc countries have been admitted, and to be regarded as the enemy against which NATO must protect itself. The author points out how the US has repeatedly tried to get Russia to give up nuclear weapons, without relinquishing its own one-sided plans for anti-missile defence. How can Putin be expected to take lessons over Chechnya from a government that went to war with Iraq on spurious grounds, without UN approval and which makes drone attacks on Pakistan?

After an almost naïve expectation of being welcomed by the West, it is sad to see Putin growing hardened and bitter in his sense of rejection borne of a mutual lack of understanding. It is no criticism of Roxburgh that he has no solutions to offer except, "the evidence of history suggest that pragmatic engagement is the only chance of success.....that in the end Russia will reform from within, not under outside pressure".
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on 30 January 2012
I was very pleased and even surprised by the author's insights and understanding of Russian politics, Russian mentality and their "eternal" distrust of the West. Everything in this book could be verified which makes it trustworthy, no gossips just hard facts. Well done and I wish Angus Roxbourgh all the best. Highly recommended!

Albert from Ireland

[...]
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on 12 January 2013
I can't recommend this book highly enough. I have read some of the comments from others who may have a much greater knowledge of Russia and regardless of political opinion if you are like me and just enjoy a good read don't let the subject matter throw you off this one. This is a fantastic read. It is like a crime novel, a thriller, murder mystery and history book rolled into one. It has bribery, corruption, murder, extortion, back stabbing, espionage and just everything nasty in world politics.But this is fact not fiction. The author has made great use of comments from leading world shakers and movers that help you to understand the complete mistrust that the West has for Putin but it seems like the guy has magnetism. This book is brilliant. I don't normally do political but some of the characters in this story are scary. Some are plain stupid and others are simply evil (not all on the Eastern side either). Read this and make your own minds up about which is which.
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on 13 January 2015
The Strongman: Valadimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia. This is a very good that gives an interesting
background to Putin and what has been happening behind the scenes in the country of Russia.
A very good read for someone who is interested in Vladimir Putin's life and the country he has been trying to rule.
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on 8 December 2012
having just read 'russia -a mafia state' by luke harding of 'the guardian' this was a similar tone although a little more explicit. could have done with a little more detail on Putin's character. tended to stray to many other areas but helped give a bit more information of the vastness of the ex-U.S.S.R.
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on 12 April 2012
This was a great read.
As someone who's worked in a related field and dealt with many of the issues and some of the events that Mr. Roxburgh tackles, I found the book not just enlightening but also engaging, well-written and witty. I found myself smiling and cringing, thinking of the situations he covers and their relevance on the world stage. I often found myself jealous of the author's privileged place to experience Russia and the government, but he conveys his insight in a thought-provoking manner.
A must for any Russophile but also for students of history and politics or for anyone who wants a good book (and what a great cover!).
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on 8 January 2013
I first met the author in Jan 92 in Moscow, shortly after Yelsin came to power. Angus was the BBC Moscow corespondent. I liked him a lot. If any non-Russian can write, with authority, about Russia and its leadership, then it's Angus Roxburgh.

Vladimir Vladimirovitch Putin busrt onto the Russian political stage over-burdened with the baggage of Communism and the KGB. Through Angus you get to understand the origins of this "new" Putin, what shaped his ideals and priorities. You are then led through the West's reactions and Putin's hardened attitude to the West.

If you have any interest at all in the recently re-elected President of Russia, and the direction he is taking the Russian State and its peoples, then this is the book for you. Angus writes with great clarity reinforced by his personal knowledge and interviews with with his subject. I found the book "unputdownable."
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on 23 March 2012
This is an interesting book, written by an old Russia hand. It summarises the Putin era (and the toxic Yeltsin legacy), with lengthy asides about the man himself, but concentrates on international diplomacy. It is at its best when discussing the war with Georgia, and the Russian Federation's interaction with American diplomats under George W Bush. There are some things left out, but, on the whole, it makes for an entertaining and informative read. It is also remarkably even-handed, admitting that, in power politics, all sides are acting through self-interest, whatever they say to the contrary.
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on 10 June 2014
Thorough balanced view from a creditable source - the case is still out on VP (and Roxburgh does not pull any punches) but he's right to show that VP is partly what he's been made by the West.
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